Artemis and the Amazons

Everyone has a favorite city. And cities often have favorite fun facts. For instance, here’s my favorite fun fact about the city of Seattle. It not only has the highest percentage of residents with at least a college degree, but it also has more households with pets than households with children. Fun fact: The city of Paris has no stop signs. If you come to an intersection without a traffic light, you’d better look before you leap! Fun fact: The city of Berlin has roughly 170 museums. But that is not as impressive as it sounds. At least one of those museums is for curried sausage; and if one can be profaned, they all can. Fun Fact: Based on population, the third smallest city in England is the city of London. Now, that is weird, but technically, the city of London only constitutes the financial district; and while over 500,000

Why Women Loved Artemis

There are a lot of verses in the Bible that are just plain weird.  I offer these up for your consideration.  Ezekiel 16:45 – “Your mother was a Hittite and your father an Amorite.” (That’s a weird insult!) 2 Kings 6:28 -- “Give up your son so we may eat him today, and tomorrow we’ll eat my son.” (That’s just weird; and as plans go, it is awful!) 1 Chronicles 26:18 – “As for the Parbar on the west, there were four on the highway and two at the Parbar.” (It’s weird, but it was my favorite verse in college.) Ezekiel 4:15 -- “Very well,” he said, “I will let you bake your bread over cow dung instead of human excrement.” (Weird, weird and weird.) 1 Timothy 2:15 – “But women will be saved through childbearing—if they continue in faith, love and holiness with propriety.” (That may be the weirdest of the group!) See what I mean? They are all weird,

What Artemis Was Not

Back in the 17th and 18th centuries, Europeans feared the tomato because they believed the tomato was a deadly killer.  Now, this would make perfectly good sense if they had seen the 1978 movie, “The Attack of the Killer Tomatoes,” because there, tomatoes WERE deadly killers (that one line in the theme song said it all: “I’m really going to miss her, a tomato ate my sister.”).  However, most people today dismiss the impact of this movie on our European friends since the movie came out 200-plus years after this panic and because it was a really bad movie. Nevertheless, in 1700’s, the tomato was believed to be extremely poisonous and responsible for numerous deaths. You may scoff at this idea, but the evidence was pretty overwhelming. Many aristocrats, after eating a side dish of tomatoes, became very sick and many died. After eliminating all other possible suspects, the authorities

Who Was Artemis?

When I was a kid, I was a big fan of The Lone Ranger. It was my favorite show on TV, and I could not wait for the next episode (but back then you had to – not only was there no “On Demand,” but there were also only three channels!). The Lone Ranger had everything–a mysterious masked man, the fast gun, his great friend, Tonto, and a mighty “Hi-oh, Silver Away,” (but I’m still confused -- was it “Hi-oh, Silver,” “Hi-yo, Silver” or “Hi-ho, Silver?). Plus, it had the William Tell Overture as its theme music! But my very favorite part of the show was at the end when whoever was rescued in that particular episode, cries out, “Who was that masked man?” Great memories. By the way, I just rewatched the first episode on Youtube. My memories are faulty. It was really awful. Really, really awful.   But as

You May Not Be Able to See Her, But She Is Definitely There

Today, we begin a new series which will look at Sandra Glahn’s exceptional book, Nobody’s Mother: Artemis of the Ephesians in Antiquity and the New Testament (Downers Grove, InterVarsity Press, 2023). When it comes to important background information of the New Testament, it seems to me that Artemis is near the top of the list, perhaps right behind the importance of the Old Testament. Now, I know what you are thinking: Isn’t this incredibly similar to our current sermon series? Isn’t this whole post repetitive, redundant and unwarranted? Let me answer that with several quotes from Winston Churchill. Churchill said:  “Life is fraught with opportunities to keep your mouth shut.” “If you have an important point to make, don't try to be subtle or clever. Use a pile driver. Hit the point once. Then come back and hit it again. Then hit it a third time—a tremendous whack.” “Never hold

The Top Ten Quotes in Life Together

Who doesn’t love a “Top Ten” List?  There is even a website devoted to the listing of lists of top ten things.  There you can find . . . The Top Ten Scariest Animals on Earth The Top Ten Countries with the Best Food The Top Ten Most Terrible Events in History The Top Ten Greatest People of All Time The Top Ten Most Common Geography Mistakes, and The Top Ten Things You Learned in School that Are Now Useless Now, I realize that I only listed six items of what you would find on the “top tens” website, but I will now make up for that. I am going to do the website two better. Here are, in my opinion, the top twelve quotes from Bonhoeffer’s book, Life Together. (Why? Because twelve is better than ten!). I figured this would be a great way for us to think through

The Weakness in Life Together

When Jimmy was four, he was in a terrible accident. As a result, he lost his left arm almost from the shoulder down. Thankfully, his other injuries weren’t nearly as severe, but it is hard growing up with only one arm. Ten years later, Jimmy made a strange request to his parents. He wanted to learn kung fu.  His parents thought it was a terrible idea, but they brought him to the dojo so the sensei could be the bearer of the bad news. But to the surprise of all, the sensei decided to take Jimmy in. And for the first three months things were great. Jimmy was working on this one move, and the sensei kept pressing him to master it. But while Jimmy was doing this one move over and over again, the other students were learning new kicks and blocks and holds and strikes every week. Each

Finding Certainty in Life Together

As George Orwell thought about saying, “All breakthroughs are equally impressive (they are after all, breakthroughs), but some breakthroughs are more impressive than others.” I could not agree more. Consider these five great breakthroughs in history. The Wheel. Where would we be without the wheel? Answer: Right where we are now!  Let’s face it, there is no way we would ever walk to get somewhere far away. But thanks to the invention of the wheel, we’ve been going places ever since.   The Printing Press. Sure, without the printing press there would be no Renaissance, no Protestant Reformation, and no scientific revolution, but those are all small historical potatoes compared to the point: Would you want to live in a world where Calvin and Hobbes books were not readily available? Me neither.   The Light Bulb. Many will argue that the light bulb was invented by one of the brightest inventors ever, but its true inventor

Something’s Missing in Life Together, Part 2

True confessions. Five of them. And I don’t like to admit any of them. One, when it comes to buying books, I have little impulse control (in fact, Jo says I have no impulse control). Two, I own my own slot machine. (How many pastors can say that?). Three, I have close to 100 rocks in my study. Most of these rocks I picked up along various trails/beaches or were given to me, but some I stole. That’s right, I am a rock thief. Four, I once lied to a doctor saying that I was too sick to hold a thermometer in my mouth. I was young and had no idea there was an alternative. I bet I was the butt of the hospital.  Five, before I retire, I promised myself I would learn how to make great pizza. I even bought a wood-fired pizza oven. My pizza went up

Holy Week (but not quite Life Together)

I love a good quote. I use them all the time because they clarify, condense and add considerable weight to an already good point. Churchill said: “It is a good thing for an uneducated man to read books of quotations.” Well, I would add that it is even a good thing for educated people to color their conversations with a great quote every now and then. I am all with Marlene Dietrich here: “I love quotations because it is a joy to find thoughts one might have, beautifully expressed with much authority by someone recognized wiser than oneself.” By the time this post comes out, we will be nearing the end of Holy Week. Easter is quickly approaching, but we still have to go through the darkest hours of Good Friday and Holy Saturday. It seemed to me that instead of continuing our discussion of Bonhoeffer’s Life Together, that we

Something’s Missing in Life Together

There are careers I just would not want. I would not want to be a mortician. In my opinion, it’s a dead-end job. I would not like to assist a doctor giving colonoscopies. Now, maybe it is better than being a professional colonoscopy patient, but I am not so sure I want to probe the differences. I would not want to be a corrections officer. Imagine doing that for 10 to life? Nor would I want any part of these real-life jobs: a roadkill collector, a crime-scene cleaner, a manure inspector, a zoo cleaner or a priest. That’s right, a priest. I definitely would not want to be a priest. Why? Simple, I don’t want to hear your confessions. Perhaps, I could listen to confessions from people I didn’t know, but hearing them from people I know and love, no thank you.   We are looking at Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s Life Together:

Plain Sailing (Not Sinking) for Life Together, Part 2

In our previous post, we asked, “What caused the Titanic to sink?” In this post, we want to ask the “who” question, as in, “Who was the one most responsible for the disaster?” This is also known as the “blame” question. Now obviously, the captain should shoulder the bulk of the blame (after all, he was the captain); and his executive officer did absolutely nothing to help save the day, but neither of these gentlemen would be at the top of my list. My number one target to blame is the ship’s radio operator, Jack Philipps. Long before there was a crisis with an iceberg, Jack was dealing with a crisis of his own. See, the day before the Titanic sank, the radio went out, and that meant he was way behind. Thankfully, the radio had been fixed, and that was a very good thing. Now back in the day,

Plain Sailing (Not Sinking) for Life Together, Part 1

Here are seven simple ways the Titanic disaster could have been avoided. Build it with a double-hull. Single hulls save money. Double hulls save lives. Use steel rivets, not weaker wrought-iron rivets (40% of the 3 million rivets used to weld together the hull’s steel planks were inferior).  Seal the top of the watertight bulkheads. Watertight bulkheads are great if the water is shallow, but if the water gets deep and you haven’t sealed the tops of the bulkheads, water will just flood over the top, making a watertight bulkhead a waterfall bulkhead. When in dangerous waters (especially where you cannot see too far ahead of you), slow down or stop completely. In other words, don’t continue going at near maximum speed. Other ships in the North Atlantic that night took this advice to heart. None of them sank. Once you see an iceberg dead ahead, turn the ship immediately.

Worms in Life Together

They’re back. Worms. Thousands of them. All slithering about in our backyard. There are big worms and little worms, fat worms and thin worms, disgusting, slimy worms and more disgusting, slimy worms. And they are literally everywhere, meaning you can’t take a step without ending up with worm mush on your shoes. That’s not completely true. They are everywhere, but as soon as you get too close, the worms scamper back into their holes like pieces of spaghetti being sucked up by Lady and the Tramp. Be alarmed. Be very alarmed. There are worms everywhere. And nobody knows why. For months, our worms stayed underground, just trying to stay warm.  But an early spring has changed their minds about going topside; and when it rains, it’s like it’s spring break. According to most experts, worms come out after a rain because it is easier to move about when the surface

Carving Out Some Alone Time for Life Together

Jack Adams made this helpful distinction: “If it's free, it's advice; if you pay for it, it's counseling; if you can use either one, it's a miracle.” Today, we want to talk about the miracle of free advice, so let’s start with a quiz. Which of the following is good advice and which is worthless twaddle? If it is good advice, say, “amen,” after reading the statement. Here we go. . . . “Never insult the alligator until after you have crossed the river.” “Never do anything you wouldn’t want to explain to a paramedic.” “If you find a toilet in your dream, don’t use it.” “If attacked by a mob of clowns, go for the juggler.” We are looking at chapter 3 in Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s book, Life Together: A Discussion of Christian Fellowship. It is odd for a book on Christian community to devote a whole chapter to being

Worship for Life Together

It’s February. Even though our winter has been incredibly nice by any standard you may suggest (except skiing), all of us are ready to move on to spring. And that is why Groundhog’s Day is such a big deal. We all want Punxsutawney Phil to come out of his burrow, fail to see his shadow and announce that spring will be early this year. That is, unless you live in Canada. If you live in Canada, you don’t care what some Pennsylvanian rat in a hat thinks. You’ll get your weather prognostication from Wiarton Willy, thank you very much! But that’s also true about many other locations because there are at least NINE groundhogs in the weather-predicting business. We already know of Phil in Pennsylvania and Willie in Ontario, but there is also Staten Island Chuck, Dunkirk Dave (New York) Jimmy the Groundhog (Wisconsin), General Beauregard Lee (Georgia), Buckeye Chuck

Scripture for Life Together

There is nothing like a good quiz, especially when the subtitle reads: 98% of Christians Can’t Pass this Bible Quiz. I have taken at least a dozen of these quizzes, but with mixed results. I’m really good at questions like, “How many fish did the disciples catch in John 21?” or “In what town did Jesus encounter Zacchaeus?” In fact, on one quiz, I managed a 45 out of 45 and received a “Nice Try” for my efforts (Isn’t “nice try” what you say when you only get 20 out of 45?). But then, there are these other questions in these Bible quizzes that leave me scratching my head. For instance, one Christian quiz asked, “What was the name of the carrot on Veggie Tales?” (Can carrots even be Christians?). Or, “In which Texas university is the biggest Bible in the world housed?” (I didn’t even know Texans read the

Praying for Life Together

Confession is good for the soul. Lots of people I greatly admire, greatly admire Bonhoeffer. You can tell because they have read him extensively. That’s not me. In fact, until I was reading them extensively, I was not really interested in Bonhoeffer or his books. To be perfectly open and honest, this is the very first time I have ever read Life Together. But here is the strange part. I have had a copy of the book in my library for years, but how it got there is a mystery; a mystery I am hoping to solve to my satisfaction in a few seconds. Let’s start with the facts. I have a hardback copy of Life Together that was published in 1954 (originally published in 1939 in German, 1954 was the first English translation). On the flyleaf, there is a stranger’s name stamped (I could be misreading it, but it

Seven Sins to Poison Community, Part 2

Last week, I argued that one of the great visionaries of the past was the guy who invented pizza (who would disagree with that?). But who was this creative genius? The answer depends a lot on how we define “pizza.” If pizza is simply flatbread cooked in an oven, then the answer is an ancient someone in the Middle East. Everyone (the Egyptians, the Babylonians, the Israelites and others) all cooked flatbread in mud ovens. Now, if you think you need something ON that flatbread for it to be called a pizza, then we have a different answer. The ancient Greeks and Romans both topped their flatbread with herbs, spices and olive oil. Now, I would argue that is better defined as focaccia bread, not pizza, but it is a topping on baked bread, so props to them. Plus, a pizza, to be a pizza, doesn’t need a tomato-sauce topping

Seven Sins to Poison Community, Part 1

Who were the great visionaries of the past? I would suggest the following people need to be on that list.  The incredible saint who said “Let’s mash up these beans, run hot water through them and drink it. We will call it ‘coffee.’” Whoever that guy was, he was brilliant!  The genius who looked at some plain, baked flatbread and “saw” pizza and said, “I’m going to make happiness pie.” Words cannot express my gratitude. The deeply holy man who looked at a cacao pod and said, “Let’s make some chocolate!” I love that guy! The person who said, “Dag, I left the cream outside overnight, and it froze. My boxes of cake icing also froze. But what if I added them together? Think about it! Chocolate and frozen cream! Butter Pecan frozen cream! Cookie dough ice cream! You scream, we all scream for ice cream!” Whoever that person was,

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